I know it’s a scam, now what?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles


I just found your website, and I’m writing because I’m a little bit scared. Through Craigslist, I tried to become a mystery shopper, and after a volley of poorly written emails from a guy named “Paul”, I just received a check on my doorstep for $3501.00 and instructions to email this HOTMAIL account for more information on the next step.

Obviously, I don’t want to touch this check with a ten foot pole. But, what do I do now? Can I safely shred it and forget the whole thing? Am I liable for anything?

I really want to make this a part-time income stream, and I got off on the wrong foot.

Any help you could give me would really be appreciated!

It looks like you’ve wandered into a typical Mystery Shopping Craigslist scam. The check you possess is actually bogus, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you track “Paul’s” email, you’ll see he’s overseas. You might get a few strongly worded emails, but they have no weight…you’re not really liable for anything.

I can guess that the check came from a US address though, right? This is because Paul hired someone else to act as a payment processor (you’ll see ads on Craigslist for payment processing, or payroll services that all involve working from home…it’s Paul again!) who will then send you the check that you’re supposed to deposit or cash send some amount through wire transfer and then keep the balance, (like $500-$1000) as your payment. It’s a fairly complicated and brilliant scam, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Mystery Shopping. Most Mystery Shopping assignments pay $10-$50, not $500.

I recommend you open the full headers of all the emails that you got, make a couple of screenshots and send them to the proper authorities. They will be able to investigate the emails and the people behind them.

Visit the following websites for more information on how to report these types of crimes:


Additionally, if the check was drawn off a local bank, (or a national chain, even) go to a nearby branch to turn it in. (Make a photocopy first, in case the cops contact you for more information.) The branch will want to look into the account it is drawn on, to make sure it hasn’t been hacked or compromised.

Now, when the scammers contact you again, (because they will!) just ignore them. If they only have your email address, that shouldn’t be to hard to do. If you gave them your phone number, that will be harder, and you may want to look into blocking their number.  You could also tell them that you took the check to the bank and they said it was fraudulent. Chances are, they’ll hang up on you quickly and leave you alone.

But if not, be prepared for them to get more aggressive as time goes on. They may even threaten you, in which case, you can contact the police and report harassment.

Hopefully, you didn’t use your home address when they sent you the package. While it is unlikely that they’ll show up at your doorstep, (they are overseas, remember) it can feel very unsettling. But I wouldn’t worry too much. They may threaten and cajole you into feeling really bad, but they’re not going to waste time once they know you won’t bite.

I hope this helps! Good luck!


Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

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